One of the most thoughtful things an expensive restaurant can do is open up a cafe inside, transforming a space that people might use once a month (or not at all) into a place folks can visit everyday. This is what makes Easy Victor Cafe, a hangout for coffee and pastries, such a nice addition to Legacy Records, Robert Bohr and Ryan Hardy’s Italian restaurant on the southern edge of Hell’s Kitchen. One might not drop by for a $100 per person meal too often, but reading the paper here over a cup of coffee and a pecan could easily become a regular affair.
The way a restaurant fits into a community is of particular interest in this slice of the city. Wary locals, facing rising rents, are watching as the Hudson Yards megaproject erects million dollar condos, fast-casual chains, and expensive restaurants inside a giant mall. The fact that Legacy Records sits inside Henry Hall, a new boutique apartment building where a studio costs a cool $3,500/month, doesn’t help.
A good chocolate croissant, admittedly, won’t solve any problems of urban development, but when combined with a comfortable stool and laptop-friendly counter, it can go a long way in making nearby residents feel like this is a positive addition to the neighborhood.
And man, it is a really good pastry. An in-house bakery on the second floor rolls up plain and chocolate dough to create a handsome marbling effect. The end product is remarkably savory, almost as much as a gougere (the chefs use salted instead of sweet butter). And just when things get too intense, a squirt of chocolate ganache inside reminds you this is still a dessert.
The bakers also put out a solid pecan roll. The chopped nuts, firmly bound together by the edible glue of butterscotch, are coarse but soft, acting as a point of contrast to the twirls of crispy croissant dough, which shatter when chomped. And the everything-seasoned focaccia acts a pleasantly squishy alternative to a standard bagel preparation; here it’s worth noting that Hardy’s mix of salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and onion pack a cleaner, clearer flavor profile than this mix normally does elsewhere.
Easy Victor will launch a longer food menu next week, I’m told, with fried egg sandwiches on Japanese milk buns, as well as focaccia, prosciutto, and burrata sandwiches. But for now, it’s a quiet, peaceful place order a pastry and relax for a minutes. The croissant and pecan roll are $5, while the focaccia is $4.50, and I’m rating them a BUY.
Buy, Sell, Hold is a column from Eater New York’s chief critic Ryan Sutton where he looks at a single dish or item and decides whether you should you buy it, sell it (or just don’t try it at all), or hold (give it some time before trying).